Friday, June 15, 2007

How To Deal With A Poker Downswing...

No, not having one myself* (phew)... saw some traffic coming from the Motley Fool Poker discussion board the other day and popped over to investigate... turns out that one 'Fool' was having a spot of trouble with the old variance - after a few winning months things had turned bad and his bankroll headed south....

This got me thinking that a good time to think about dealing with downswings in poker is actually when you are not in one - too much risk that ones judgement would be clouded....

My first thought on the subject - especially for newer players - is to make sure that you really are a winning player. Variance easily works both ways right? A couple of suckouts in your favour can easily give the illusion of beating a game over a small sample size - the 'reverse 5 coin flips and re-check your ROI' line of thought that regular readers will be familiar with.

Bankroll management also has to be a key factor - if you do not have at least reasonable bankroll management then natural variance means you go broke at some point (this is a statistical fact - however unappealing it may sound!). Many new players are either not aware of this or maybe feel that it does not apply to them... the key of course is knowing when to move down levels... one needs to be psychologically strong here, your ego will tell you that it is just bad luck and moving up levels for a while will get the 'roll moving again. Cold hard logic on the other hand suggests that the long term winner will have to move down several times on their journey up the levels.

Taking a poker break has to come into the list too - personally a big fan of this even when winning. Actually find I play longer sessions when losing, which seems backwards really - surely one should keep going when winning??!? A break helps put poker into perspective, life is rich and colourful and poker is just one small aspect - sometimes a determination to get that bankroll back to its previous highs can exaggerate the importance of the beautiful game.

Finally, continual learning and assessment of your own weaknesses is the key to dealing with any downswing... not everyone is inclined to pay for the various training sites such as PxF etc. This should not stop anyone looking through their hand histories - singling out hands that caused problems and asking how they could win more on their winners and lose less when behind... after all that is the key to winning poker - we all get the same cards in the end!

Enough rambling, next time you feel a downswing coming on take action fast!

GL at the tables,

* Doing just fine at the moment - mainly NLHE and PLO cash games on Titan - steady yet unspectacular results. Decided to stop posting my personal results as Plan3t Gong has kind of morphed itself into a strategy and links to other people's strategy resource... not sure the average person searching for SNG Bubble Tips (etc) on Google really cares what my bankroll is!!!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, wise words indeed, poker is a great game and a joy in life but it's only one joy!! After 4 weeks off spent moving to a new country, new job and spending some quality time enjoying my life, I've come back refreshed and played my best poker in a long time. It's easy to play a limited skill game (ubber tight and aggresive) or grind out a winning strategy at the levels I play ($15 18 man) but after coming back to the game and really using my brain and thinking through each play, reading the players and bets it was so much more fun. I felt I'd played the best poker in a long time and whats more I enjoyed it (HU in every tourney after which I hit a few cash games to up my bank roll)!! I've never been in poker to make a living (day job does that) but the feeling after you've played an intelligent game and make all the right reads is FANTASTIC!! A break helps to focus the mind when you return, rather than lose "that loving feeling" when you're playing a poker marathon and grinding it out so you make the cash!!! Keep up the good work blogging mate, cheers

Mark said...

Good point there... can be dangerous sometimes to 'overthink' the fish, but being clear minded after a break does help!

Going to do a post series on overthinking some time soon BTW!

Cheers, Mark